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Swinging from the Garden Gate
General Assembly 2001 Event 3046
Sponsor: Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns, Unitarian Universalist Association
Speaker: Elizabeth J. Andrew
Rev. Keith Kron, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Director of the Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgendered Concerns (BGLT) also serves on the board of Skinner House Press, and it was in that capacity that he made the opening remarks for this workshop. "Normally Skinner publishes worship resources, but the editors sent this manuscript to me for review, as it concerned the spiritual journey of a religious bisexual woman. Here she was, not a Unitarian Universalist (UU), not a worship resource, but some of the best writing I have ever seen." As he strongly recommended the book for publication to this colleagues, "a big fight ensued. I just told them to 'read it!' and as they did, they became converts; it was an easy decision once it was read." He then introduced the author of Swinging on the Garden Gate, Elizabeth J. Andrew.
Ms. Andrew began by explaining that she had always been "intrigued by the gifts brought by bisexual, lesbian, and gay people to the question of a spiritual journey. There's an archetypal process of queer coming out as a way to feel the divine presence." Her Methodist roots and her interest in the heritage of religious literature are such that she "can't help but have it appear in my writing," but she was careful to point out that she "doesn't speak for bi's as a whole."
"There was a gradual awakening of self-revelation in my process of coming out as bisexual," she said, "first in my internal waking up to my own experiences, and then in denial, doubt, and fear. But eventually I reached a place where holding it inside was harder than manifesting it." She described how much support she received from her own Methodist congregation in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
Quoting Parker Palmer, the Quaker writer, from his book, Let Your Life Speak she agreed that there were "commonalities among transformative liberation cultures which comes from them deciding to care for their authentic selfhood," to decide to live divided no more. This is sometimes called the "Rosa Parks Decision."
Ms. Andrew interspersed her own remarks with readings from the book and encouraged a significant amount of audience participation. Participants started conversations with the author on several related issues: hostility toward bisexual people in the lesbian and gay community; discomfort with labels like bisexual, gay, or lesbian in favor of a non-duality-based approach to sexuality; questions about the welcoming nature of her Methodist church in Minnesota; whether objections to bisexuality had more to do with homophobia or discomfort with the potential for non-monogamy that bisexuals often represent; an examination of bi-spirituality as an alternative to bisexuality; and an urging from one member of the audience to "put aside the division between sexuality and spirituality."
It was an exciting, well-attended and highly participatory forum.
Reported by Dwight Ernest.